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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 June 2018

Narendra Modi to be keynote speaker at World Government Summit

India's prime minister will give a speech as his country will be the guest honour

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, with India's prime minister Narendra Modi. Ties between the two countries are strong. Adnan Abidi / Reuters
Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, with India's prime minister Narendra Modi. Ties between the two countries are strong. Adnan Abidi / Reuters

India’s prime minister Narendra Modi will be a keynote speaker at this year’s World Government Summit held in Dubai.

The leaders of more than two dozen countries are expected to descend on the emirate for the summit between February 11 and 13.

Mr Modi will present the speech with India being nominated as the official “guest of honour”. In previous years, guest countries included South Korea, the United States and Japan.

Mohammed Al Gergawi, the Minister for Cabinet Affairs, said India “is a country which has great economic momentum in the next 20 years and we expect it to compete with the greatest countries in the world.

“It is in the top three economies of the world and it plays a great role in space information technology and digital sciences.”

He said the country produces the best human resources from around the world.

“The biggest companies today from around the world, such as Microsoft, Google, Pepsi and others, are run by people of Indian origin,” Mr Al Gargawi said. “It is an example which we would like all governments of the world to benefit from and we have a strategic relationship with it.”

Mr Modi last visited the UAE in August 2015 where he was welcomed by more than 50,000 Indian expatriates who waited hours in the summer sun to hear him speak at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.

The summit is expected to attract 4,000 participants from 140 countries. More than 26 presidents, prime ministers and vice presidents as well as heads of international organisations and key decision-makers – including Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, Angel Gurria, secretary-general of the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development and Klaus Schwab, founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, among others – are due to attend.

Held for the first time in 2013, the summit will focus on forecasting the future for governments and humanity’s quality of life, with forums on climate change, artificial intelligence, youth, happiness and space exploration.

“Climate change is one of the most important difficulties facing humanity,” said Dr Thani Al Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change and the Environment. “It impacts us on a daily basis. Hurricanes are growing in power and becoming more damaging to lives, resources and infrastructure.”

Over the past 20 years, natural disasters have caused losses worth around two trillion dollars. “It’s a massive number,” he said. “We will look at solutions to the impact of climate change and preparing for disasters with more agile infrastructure.”

Artificial intelligence will be a new theme discussed at the summit this year.

“AI touches all aspects of our life,” said Omar Al Olama, the UAE’s Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence. “Eighty per cent of government spending today is on salaries and functions but AI can transform these expenses and restructure it so it is 100 times more efficient. It can also analyse the immensity of data we have today in one minute.”

The UAE is focusing on facing the future by creating changes, not just keeping up with them. The new Global Forum on AI will draw a roadmap for governments to improve their procedures through AI, attracting world-renowned names in the industry such as Sebastian Thrun, founder of Udacity which provides an AI for Robotics course.

“Some governments today look at AI as a challenge but it’s also an opportunity,” Mr Al Olama said. “When you do that, you can understand it better and pioneer in it. This is what the UAE will be doing to ensure the advancement of humanity.”

Challenges facing space exploration and related technologies supporting human life will also be tackled.

“The aim is to deepen the understanding of Mars and space exploration as well as life outside our planet and nutrition support,” said Sarah Al Amiri, Minister of State for Advanced Sciences. “This will speed up development on Earth to find sustainable energy solutions and diversity of food on Earth. The outcomes of the forum will be presented to global decision-makers.”

At the heart of these topics will be the Arab youth, who represent the largest percentage in regional societies. “They are the richest resource we have in this region so their success means the success of our nations and governments,” said Shamma Al Mazrui, Minister of State for Youth Affairs. “Forecasting the future means discussing it. We will announce Arab youth pioneers, focus on young leaders who created more than 50,000 work opportunities and how they impact their societies. The youth are the main solution for global challenges.”